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Tuesday, November 19, 1996 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Teen Couple Charged With Killing Infant

Newsday

As the school year began at the University of Delaware, some acquaintances of freshman Amy Grossberg suspected that she had a secret. Grossberg, they believed, was pregnant.

"She never told anyone," said a student who lives in Thompson Hall, where Grossberg lives. "But it was obvious. She wore baggy clothes to hide it. When people said, `Are you pregnant?' she said, `No.' "

Authorities arrested Grossberg in Newark, Del., last night and were searching today for her high-school sweetheart, Brian Peterson Jr.

The 18-year-olds face charges that they killed their baby immediately after the boy was born last week in a motel near the campus.

The first-degree murder charges carry the death penalty.

Peterson and Grossman grew up in affluent northern New Jersey and graduated from Ramapo High School in Wyckoff, N.J. He is a freshman at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, a three-hour drive from the University of Delaware, and is known to Grossberg's friends there as a frequent weekend visitor.

According to Newark Police Lt. Roy Clough, Grossberg delivered her baby early Nov. 12 at a Comfort Inn near the campus, with Peterson present. The baby was found dead a day later, wrapped in a plastic bag in a trash container behind the motel.

Quoting a state medical examiner's report, Clough said the nearly full-term baby suffered "multiple skull fractures, with injury to the brain, blunt-force head trauma and shaking."

In non-medical terms, Clough said, the baby was beaten to death. He said it was unclear whether the baby was alive at the time it was placed in the Dumpster.

He said Grossberg, suffering complications from the birth, was taken by ambulance from her dorm to Christiana Hospital in Newark 12 hours after the delivery. She was released last night, then arrested.

After the baby's birth, Peterson drove back to Gettysburg, Clough said. Peterson spoke to a counselor in his dormitory and made incriminating statements about "disposing" of the baby, Clough said. Based on those statements, police believe that Peterson helped deliver the baby and wrapped it in the plastic bag. Police searching with a dog found the body.

Charles Oberly, a Wilmington, Del., attorney representing Grossberg, said late yesterday that his client will "voluntarily cooperate in every way." He said Grossberg will surrender shortly.

In a statement, Oberly said, "Amy has been through a serious illness, childbirth, the loss of that child and will now go directly from a hospital bed to a maximum-security prison unit."

If tried of capital murder, the couple would be among the youngest to face the death penalty in Delaware, which can apply any time the victim of an intentional homicide is under 14 years old. Delaware prosecutors declined comment.

Grossberg and Peterson met in suburban Bergen County, N.J. He lived in Wyckoff, she lived in Franklin Lakes, both affluent communities. At Ramapo High School, he was an athlete and she was an artist who wanted to major in art when she entered the University of Delaware.

"I don't think people like to talk about somebody else's misery," said one 30-year Franklin Lakes resident who would not give her name. "It's a sad, horrible tragedy, I think, for everyone concerned."

Copyright (c) 1996 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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